SB vs ML vs MS vs Bubba Gump Investments

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dude's picture
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OK for all you who are having a hard time lets make this a little easier on you.
If you are a NEW broker and are considering different BROKERAGE firms to work for (I've never worked for an insurance company so I won't comment on them), then here is the framework you should use to make a decision:
1) If you get an offer from any well known wirehouse like Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley, UBS, AG Edwards etc.... you take it immediately.  Why?  Because your training will be comprehensive, your platform will be broad and you will be exposed to a culture which will give you great insight into the business as a whole.  In addition you will be working for a firm that has a vested interest in being at the forefront of the money management business.
2)  You only go to work for Edward Jones or other firms if you can't get with one of the big guys.  This is not a bad way to go, you'll get your foot into the business, but you should have the intention to either go indy or step up at some point so you can round out your education and expand your platform.
3)  You don't get to go indy unless you've done either #1 or #2.
4)  If you struggle at either a top wirehouse or Ed Jones you can choose the bank channel, which again is not a bad option since client acquisition is easier (although not a cakewalk by any means).  Just try to land with a bank that has a real platform (i.e. offers more than mutual funds and annuities) and allows fee based business.  After building a book of clients that are loyal to you (not the bank) you can go indy or try at the big boys again (better be able to move your clients though).
This is soooooo simple that I have a hard time understanding why anyone would seriously question "Should I work for Merrill Lynch or Zeke Clemm securities?".
When I first got into this business I recieved offers from First Investors and Northwestern Mutual and I put them off for three weeks (letting them know that I wanted to consider all my options so that there were no doubts in my mind) and risked loosing the offers so I could await a decision from Morgan Stanley.  Once I recieved the offer, I jumped without a doubt because it was an obvious decision.
I received 7 months of intensive financial education (a little weak on business building but you can get ideas and advice from anywhere on this), flew to San Fransisco twice, Dallas once and worked in an environment that was the product of a firm who is a major player on Wall Street and influences the business waaaaaay more than Ed Jones or any of the other smaller players.

hubbabubba's picture
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Nice post, dude. 

Boomer's picture
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nice compilation

NASD Newbie's picture
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Care should be given to not ignore very effective alternatives to the big wires--specifically strong regionals.
Raymond James has traditional branches around the country--especially in the Southeast, and in Michigan where they bought a firm called Roney and Company several years ago.  As Maybeeeee (RIP) was fond of telling everybody it is an easy move from a branch to the indy channel if you ever decide to do that.
Stifel Nicolaus has lots of branches around the Missiouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma Kansas area--and they're expanding to the east.  Could be lots of opportunities there.
Southwest Securities has branches in Texas and Oklahoma--- I know the firm pretty well and it's appears to be a great place to work.
Hilliard Lyons in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio--it's a division of PNC, but they're leaving it pretty much alone.
If you're out in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas there's a firm called DA Davidson that is a very respected name in that part of the country.
On the left coast there is a firm called Wedbush--used to be Wedbush, Noble, Cook I think--anyway they have a good reputation in California.
Janny Montgomery Scott in Philly is a very respectable regional firm in that area.
Morgan Keegan in Memphis is a division of Regions Bank out of Birmingham.  They have a lot of offices in the banks, but they also have branches around the Southeast and South Central states.
Dain Bosworth in Minneapolis has been bought by Royal Bank of Scotland, but they're still pretty autonomous and have a very well regarded name in their geography.
The other firm from up there is Piper Jaffray but they sold their branches to UBS and have become pretty much an investment bank.
In the Carolinas there is a firm called RBC Centura which has branches in banks but also freestanding branches--not a bad place to work, can't hurt your resume.
In Milwaukee is a firm called Robert W Baird, I'm pretty sure it's a division of Northwestern Mutual Life, but they have branches in that part of the country.
In Richmond there is a firm called Scott & Stringfellow--it's an old line, silk stocking type firm that is now owned by BB&T (a bank) but they too continue to run their own shops pretty autonomously.
There is a firm called Stern Agee and Leach in Birmingham--they're an interesting small firm, very folksy, clear for others.  Probably will be acquired some day but they're very nice people.
Any of these firms would be similar to a national wirehouse in that you should be able to do lots of different products, have effective training, and not stick a big black mark on your U-4.

compliancejerk's picture
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Dain Bosworth and Centra are both owned by The Royal Bank of Canada or RBC for short. (check them out at www.rbc.com)

Registered Rep's picture
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Hey guys you posted allot of helpful info here so here's a toast to you for your contribution. I think allot of newbie's become confused with all of the choices out there, so here's a little more food for thought:
Not allot of people on this board has high marks for Ed Jones but if you do some research, the Jones story is a compelling one if you are  a newbie...Jones has an Impressive web site, competitive national recognition through Registered Rep surveys, J.D Power rankings, On Wall Street publications and more.  Can Edward Jones, the firm really be that bad & yet consistently receive high marks from so many third party organizations year after year. My advise is to do your homework & just understand as with any commitment what the pros & cons are.
What about Ameriprise? This folksy financial services firm has over 10,000 registered financial advisors & growing. I believe they also have more cfp's than any other firm. Through their P2 (independent) plateform rep's can sell practically any investment that the folks at LPL can sell. Last I looked at AMP stock they had a market cap of $10 billion. That's twice as large as Raymond James.
Wachovia: Not your typical bank. If you can get on as a bank rep & build your book in their bank branches, they have formalized a policy which allows you to gravitate seamlessly from the employee side of the business to their independent plateform. 
As I said earlier, lot's of choices out there...make sure you do your homework it's not as easy as it may seem. If you make the wrong decision, it could end up costing you valuable career time & money.
 

FA Prospect's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-05

Nice thread everyone. Thanks a bunch to Dude for his post and for the follow up posts as well.
The post from Registered Rep is exactly where I am coming from as well - EJ does kick butt in all the independent rankings that I have seen - and they offer twice a year paid vacations to over 1/2 of all their FAs. The opportunity to become a partner is also pretty compelling. Even with all those thinkgs going for EJ, I still think a position at one the other well know wirehouses is more desireable and prestigious.

xmsbroker's picture
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dude wrote:
OK for all you who are having a hard time lets make this a little easier on you.
If you are a NEW broker and are considering different BROKERAGE firms to work for (I've never worked for an insurance company so I won't comment on them), then here is the framework you should use to make a decision:
1) If you get an offer from any well known wirehouse like Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley, UBS, AG Edwards etc.... you take it immediately.  Why?  Because your training will be comprehensive, your platform will be broad and you will be exposed to a culture which will give you great insight into the business as a whole.  In addition you will be working for a firm that has a vested interest in being at the forefront of the money management business.
2)  You only go to work for Edward Jones or other firms if you can't get with one of the big guys.  This is not a bad way to go, you'll get your foot into the business, but you should have the intention to either go indy or step up at some point so you can round out your education and expand your platform.
3)  You don't get to go indy unless you've done either #1 or #2.
4)  If you struggle at either a top wirehouse or Ed Jones you can choose the bank channel, which again is not a bad option since client acquisition is easier (although not a cakewalk by any means).  Just try to land with a bank that has a real platform (i.e. offers more than mutual funds and annuities) and allows fee based business.  After building a book of clients that are loyal to you (not the bank) you can go indy or try at the big boys again (better be able to move your clients though).
This is soooooo simple that I have a hard time understanding why anyone would seriously question "Should I work for Merrill Lynch or Zeke Clemm securities?".
When I first got into this business I recieved offers from First Investors and Northwestern Mutual and I put them off for three weeks (letting them know that I wanted to consider all my options so that there were no doubts in my mind) and risked loosing the offers so I could await a decision from Morgan Stanley.  Once I recieved the offer, I jumped without a doubt because it was an obvious decision.
I received 7 months of intensive financial education (a little weak on business building but you can get ideas and advice from anywhere on this), flew to San Fransisco twice, Dallas once and worked in an environment that was the product of a firm who is a major player on Wall Street and influences the business waaaaaay more than Ed Jones or any of the other smaller players.

 
This is pretty bad advice.  It really depends on the branch/timing etc.  I had much less 'training' at ms than you, and people after me had none.  Zero, except for a day trip to regional HQ

Philo Kvetch's picture
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Joined: 2005-05-17

"This is pretty bad advice.  It really depends on the branch/timing etc.  I had much less 'training' at ms than you, and people after me had none.  Zero, except for a day trip to regional HQ"
 
With weasels like Putsy as 'middle managers', are you really surprised?

xmsbroker's picture
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Philo Kvetch wrote:
"This is pretty bad advice.  It really depends on the branch/timing etc.  I had much less 'training' at ms than you, and people after me had none.  Zero, except for a day trip to regional HQ"
 
With weasels like Putsy as 'middle managers', are you really surprised?

No, not suprised at all ;)...Its pretty stupid to assume that major name = the right decision.  With thousands of offices, there are great branches, mediocre branches, bad branches, and branches that are so weak they may close before you even get running... a strong regional office w/ some sort of mentor or a bank can be a much better entry point.  

Shmer33's picture
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Joined: 2004-12-06

RIP??   What happened to the maybeee girl?? 

noggin's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-30

A very important consideration at a wirehouse is the BM and the politics that they utilize to run the branch. I didn't read that in any of the posts.

brothaK's picture
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Joined: 2006-04-18

How about another option: going from Bank FA to Independent?

NASD Newbie's picture
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xmsbroker wrote:
Its pretty stupid to assume that major name = the right decision.  With thousands of offices, there are great branches, mediocre branches, bad branches, and branches that are so weak they may close before you even get running... a strong regional office w/ some sort of mentor or a bank can be a much better entry point.

Note that the author is an EX Morgan Stanley broker.  When people fail they NEVER blame themselves--it's always the fault of their lousy manger, the cruddy branch, the guy in the next cubicle, the ineffective sales assistant, the fact that they were downtown instead of in a suburb, an out of date computer system, that they didn't have the right mix of funds, that their phone number was not easily remembered, that the color of the carpet was not pleasing, that there was an odd smell from the air conditioning vents........
Again, if you can get an offer from AG Edwards, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney, UBS or Wachoiva there is no question you should take it.
If you can't make it there, you don't have what it takes to become a star--you might eek out a living if you switch to a bank or "go indy" but you're never going to be a major star.
It's like somebody who can't make it on Broadway might make it on the dinner theater circuit, or the small playhouses that dot the landscape.

JCadieux's picture
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Joined: 2005-01-23

Excellent content, everybody!I make my money off of wirehouse clients, so it may surprise you to hear that I don't believe that everybody would be better off in a wirehouse.You may be better off at a bank or regional firm if:

  • You geographic or other natural market has few HNW opportunities.  If so, you may be better off servicing a large number of clients with a smaller average account size.
  • You have compliance issues (including arbitration, bankruptcy, judgement, lein, arrest record, etc.).  Different firms have different rules about this stuff, but some smaller firms are more flexible than the wirehouses.
  • Some branch specific situation at the local wirehouse makes it an undesirable choice (political chaos, psycho BOM, pending closure, etc.)  But be careful, these kind of problems aren't exclusive to the larger firms.
  • You'd rather work at a bank, where there is less pressure to prospect.  However, this option will limit your relative income potiential and banks are more likely to treat you as a cost center than a revenue builder. (This is a complex issue and could represent a long discussion of its own.  Do your research before you go this route).
dude's picture
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Joined: 2005-11-15

My original post was purposefully general.  Of course you should take into consideration other factors, but it is my firm belief that my assessment is very spot on in the vast majority of cases. 
Great additions NASD....DA Davidson, RBC Dain Rauscher and a few others you addressed are good firms and are better choices than Ed Jones for sure.
Excellent input from the other posters as well.

xmsbroker's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-11

NASD Newbie wrote:
xmsbroker wrote:
Its pretty stupid to assume that major name = the right decision.  With
thousands of offices, there are great branches, mediocre branches, bad
branches, and branches that are so weak they may close before you even
get running... a strong regional office w/ some sort of mentor or a
bank can be a much better entry point.

Note that the author is an EX Morgan Stanley broker.  When people fail
they NEVER blame themselves--it's always the fault of their lousy manger,
the cruddy branch, the guy in the next cubicle, the ineffective sales
assistant, the fact that they were downtown instead of in a suburb, an out
of date computer system, that they didn't have the right mix of funds,
that their phone number was not easily remembered, that the color of the
carpet was not pleasing, that there was an odd smell from the air
conditioning vents........
Again, if you can get an offer from AG Edwards, Merrill Lynch, Morgan
Stanley, Smith Barney, UBS or Wachoiva there is no question you should
take it.
If you can't make it there, you don't have what it takes to become a
star--you might eek out a living if you switch to a bank or "go indy" but
you're never going to be a major star.
It's like somebody who can't make it on Broadway might make it on the
dinner theater circuit, or the small playhouses that dot the landscape.

If by 'fail' you mean left for a better job than maybe.  There is life beyond
being a retail broker.  A gold medalist in the special olympics is still a
xxxxxx.  Banks especially can provide better avenues into other career
options...

Even if you have your heart set on retail, the big names arent always
best.  While I was at MS, one of the top 10-20 guys in the whole country
left for one of the regional firms someone else mentioned.  Its not that
uncommon.  They paid him far more than MS or one of the big dogs
could.

Proton's picture
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Joined: 2005-08-28

The original post ought be required reading for anyone thinking about
getting into this business.  Ditto for some of the subsequent posts.

Now I really try not slam the numerous inane posts on this site, but I just
can't resist this line from xmsbroker: "A gold medalist in the special
olympics is still a xxxxxxx."

What should we infer about you if you were unable to win any medal in the
'special olympics' you refer to above?

xmsbroker's picture
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Proton wrote:
The original post ought be required reading for anyone thinking about
getting into this business.  Ditto for some of the subsequent posts.
Now I really try not slam the numerous inane posts on this site, but I just
can't resist this line from xmsbroker: "A gold medalist in the special
olympics is still a xxxxxxx."
What should we infer about you if you were unable to win any medal in
the 'special olympics' you refer to above?
 

 
That was quite a slam.  Infer that i came to my senses.

Proton's picture
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Joined: 2005-08-28

It's all clear to me now, except for one small detail.  Did your epiphany occur before or after you got sacked for low production?

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xmsbroker wrote:
That was quite a slam.  Infer that i came to my senses.

Nah, you got fired.  People don't "come to their senses" at a wirehouse and decide to leave for a lesser opportunity.
People go from wirehouse to wirehouse all the time--just like big league baseball players.
But nobody considers moving from the New York Yankees to the Toledo Mud Hens to be a desireable thing to do.

troll's picture
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xmsbroker wrote:Proton wrote:
The original post ought be required reading for anyone thinking about getting into this business.  Ditto for some of the subsequent posts.
Now I really try not slam the numerous inane posts on this site, but I just can't resist this line from xmsbroker: "A gold medalist in the special olympics is still a retard."
What should we infer about you if you were unable to win any medal in the 'special olympics' you refer to above?
 

 
That was quite a slam.  Infer that i came to my senses. Succesful advisors rarely leave the business for a better job because if you're successul in this business there are very few jobs where you can make a greater return on your time and effort once you're established.....unless perhaps you were considering professional basketball?

NASD Newbie's picture
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joedabrkr wrote: Succesful advisors rarely leave the business for a better job because if you're successul in this business there are very few jobs where you can make a greater return on your time and effort once you're established.....unless perhaps you were considering professional basketball?
How many successful producers do you think consider the return on how little time and effort they expend to be the driving force in their career decision?

troll's picture
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Proton wrote:It's all clear to me now, except for one small detail.  Did your epiphany occur before or after you got sacked for low production?
 
After, it usually comes after, and it always comes after in the cases where the guy decides to keep his ex-firm in his screen name.

Boomer's picture
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Joined: 2005-04-01

Can someone comment on support roles in the wirehouses for young, future
FA's. (recent graduates) Are there any roles that would help prepare one to
be an FA in the future?

xmsbroker's picture
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joedabrkr wrote: xmsbroker wrote:Proton wrote:
The original post ought be required reading for anyone thinking about
getting into this business.  Ditto for some of the subsequent posts.
Now I really try not slam the numerous inane posts on this site, but I
just can't resist this line from xmsbroker: "A gold medalist in the special
olympics is still a *********."
What should we infer about you if you were unable to win any medal in
the 'special olympics' you refer to above?
 

 
That was quite a slam.  Infer that i came to my senses.
Succesful advisors rarely leave the business for a better job
because if you're successul in this business there are very few jobs where
you can make a greater return on your time and effort once you're
established.....unless perhaps you were considering professional
basketball?
I left for a small firm trading futures.  Fwiw, I made the 'leaders' group
while I was in the training program and was in the top ~5-10% of my
'class' (if thats the definition of success you choose).  I now work less and
make much more than I did before.  Turns out there are a few careers on
the ladder b/w retail broker and pro athelete. 
 

NASD Newbie's picture
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xmsbroker wrote:
I left for a small firm trading futures. 

Right. That would be because you could not trade futures at Morgan Stanley, what with them not being a full service broker and all.
If you actually quit, as opposed to being canned as part of the purge or before it, you're a fool.  Going to a "small firm trading futures" is a way of saying "Became a rogue broker" and you'll be a pariah at every reputable firm on the street.

xmsbroker's picture
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Broker =/= Trader.  HTH.

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The Owls Are Not What They Seem

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